Gorilla Warfare Tactics' Dilla on Zoology and Growing Up on St. Louis Hip-Hop

Gorilla Warfare Tactics - Press Photo
Press Photo
Gorilla Warfare Tactics

Gorilla Warfare Tactics member Dilla, a native St. Louisan, had been a hip-hop enthusiast since grade school. But after he relocated to New York and began making music with his NYU roommates, hip-hop nation started to become just as enthusiastic about him. With tens of thousands of downloads and a No. 1 single on Hype Machine already under their belts, Gorilla Warfare Tactics released its new album, Zoology, just before graduation. We spoke to Dilla about growing up in St. Louis, making the transition into the New York hip-hop scene and balancing schoolwork with a certified Internet smash.

Do you recall your first exposure to hip-hop?

The way I got into hip-hop was this transition between super-pop music and going from a Catholic school to a smaller private school in fourth grade. That was the summer that St. Louis was the center of the hip-hop universe, when Nelly had just dropped Country Grammar. I had never listened to any hip-hop before, and that was my first exposure to it. Since then, it's been all hip-hop. On a personal level, I never had a chance to see much of the St. Louis hip-hop scene because I wasn't able to get involved until I got to college. The only show I went to in high school was Lollapalooza. Since I've been at NYU, it's been a lot more of taking in the whole culture, seeing the downtown, seeing the hip-hop scene and the people involved in it. I haven't really met too many St. Louis artists at this point, but it's something I'm really interested in doing while I'm back here to connect with some people.

How did Gorilla Warfare Tactics come together?

Through high school I did a lot of spoken word, and that evolved into freestyling. When I got to NYU, I ended up rooming with these two kids, who eventually became [GWT's] production team, 1984. We'd go walk down the street, they would beatbox, and I'd freestyle all through the night. It's a fun party trick. After a while, it became something we became a little more known for in the NYU community. So, we said, we're all really tight friends, let's make a project out of this and make a song or two. Worst case, we release it to our boys and can bump it during pregames.

They took a summer off and picked up production in one summer. I took some time learning how to write actual conceptual verses. We got back to school the summer after freshman year and made the track "Temptations," which we released to our favorite blog at the time and, when they posted it, we were freaking the shit out. That spread across the internet, and by the end of it we were No. 1 on Hype Machine, which was big for us to get love from other blogs and from industry as well. We were reached out to perform shows and, by the end of it, got posted by over 200 unique blogs. We developed a name in the Greenwich Village area and decided, since we were making a name for ourselves, to put out a project. Two months later we banged out a mixtape called Premier, which got 30,000 downloads. We took a little break after that to figure our own stuff out, and then we released Zoology a few weeks back.

Click through for more of our interview with Dilla.